New York, NY – Today, I occupied the May Day International General Strike of Occupy Wall Street. The few thousand Occupiers at Bryant Park midtown, were made up of union workers, disappointed conservatives, disillusioned liberals, veterans of wars past and present, those fighting still for equal access to affordable health care and students who cannot get jobs or pay off their student loans. Protest was almost a misnomer today, because the park was filled with musicians beating their percussion instruments, blowing horns,chanting and singing, with many people swaying to the beat of their own drummer.
Most of us have met a union worker we like or have loved. Many of us have worked a union job. This American worker, so unemployed now and for so long, is a group we can really stand up for and celebrate. There was a police presence there too and they are also in a union.
It occurred to me that the NYPD are occupying also. These are hard working union men and women, doing a job that most of us would never want to do. Yes, the police have been behaving badly. In the beginning of the Occupy movement, they herded young women into nets and assaulted them with pepper spray. They beat up young men with brutal tenacity. When Occupy Wall Street began to step up civil action in the spring, the police met them with seemingly more violence than they have used before, after comments that Mayor Michael Bloomberg made about the police being his “private police force” and after we found out that Wall Street gives huge money to the NYPD, when we all thought their salaries were paid by the taxpayer.
No matter how you want to look at it though, the New York Police are Occupying Wall Street with us. They are there every day. They stay as long as we stay. Most of the time, there is very little tension, and most of the police do not want physical conflict. Their pensions are being cut also. They are losing their jobs as a result of a bad economy in most cities and towns. In fact, many city cops still have their jobs JUST to police the Occupy Movement.
If we started to think about the ever present police presence as being part of our Occupy family, would our relationships with them change? Could we teach them that they are just like we are – Occupiers; city union workers who’s jobs, pensions and benefits are being slashed while they perform work that most of us would never want to do?
If we all felt the kinship that is there, would the police stand down? Would the violence deescalate? We are not going to stop committing acts of civil disobedience. We have a world to change. I would love to see what will happen when we all realize that the police are actually with us, and not against us.
Check out all our coverage from May Day here.